The Curve Ball

Here’s the situation.  For some time, you’ve been looking for a particular kind of job. It’s probably much like your current or previous job and aligns with your planned career path. But then, someone gives you an opportunity that is in a wholly different direction.  Here is an example.  I know a woman who was a well-respected in-house attorney. She liked being an attorney and wanted to keep doing that for the rest of her career.  Then she was offered the chance to do fund-raising.  She took the chance, loved it, and is doing great. Maybe someday she’ll go back to being an attorney, or maybe not.

So, when you get that call, what do you do?  First, be interested. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  Evaluate the risks and rewards of this opportunity with both a short- and long-term lens. From this opportunity can you learn new skills, make more money, broaden your network, prepare yourself for your next career move, or avoid getting RIFed? There might be lots of good reasons where making a sharp turn in your career is a good idea.  There also might be good reasons not to.

What I’ve learned is that career paths are rarely straight lines.  An old adage is that man plans, and God laughs.  While we love to make short- and long-range plans, the reality is that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, much less next year, or five years out. We can and should set goals, but we need to maintain the flexibility to allow events to move us forward.

A big key to flexibility is self-confidence.  Unless you work in a highly specialized field, or are a professional athlete, doing something different for a few years won’t diminish your skills, it will probably enhance them.  You’ll learn a new way of thinking and you’ll be more well-rounded.  You might even find that you’ll like it even better than what you do now.

Keeping in mind, that you may also be taking a risk.  You may find that you’re not very good at this new thing, or that you don’t like it. You might leave an okay job to try this new thing, and then lose that job. But if that’s the case, you’ll find another one, and you will have learned some new things about yourself.

So, when life throws you a curveball, lean in and hit it. Don’t expect your career to follow your plan exactly.  Have the confidence in yourself to be able to make the adjustments and move forward, ether way.  Remember, you are not defined by what you do.  If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.